Toto Bissainthe

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Marie Clotilde "Toto" Bissainthe (1934 – June 4, 1994) was a Haitian actress and singer known for her innovative blend of traditional Vodou and rural themes and music with contemporary lyricism and arrangements. Born in Cap-Haïtien in 1934, she left Haïti at an early age to pursue her studies abroad. Her career started in theatre with the company Griots, of which she was a founding member in 1956. Griots was at the vanguard of négritude-inspired cultural institutions in France, and was the first African theatre company in Paris.

With a groundbreaking performance in 1973 at La vieille grille in Paris, Toto Bissainthe established herself as singer-songwriter-composer, stunning the audience with her soul-stirring renditions of original compositions that paid homage to the lives, struggles, miseries and spirituality of working class and rural Haïtians.

An artist in exile, Toto Bissainthe will be unable to return to the Haïti that so inspired her until the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986. However, the multiple disappointments of the unending democratic transition and political infighting would forever embitter the outspoken artist, who had long dreamed of a return to help rebuild her motherland. Saddened by Haïti's social and political degradation, Toto Bissainthe's health would enter a downward spiral ending with her death from liver damage on June 4, 1994.

Discography[edit]

  • Toto à New York (Chango, 1975)
  • Toto chante Haïti (Arion, 1977, Prix de la chanson TF1 1978, reissued 1989)
  • Haïti Chanté - Chant du Monde (reissued, 1995)
  • Coda (reissued, 1996)
  • World Network Vol. 43: Haiti (with Ti Koka) (World Network, 1999)
  • Rétrospective (Créon Music, 2006)

Bibliography[edit]

"Toto (Marie-Clotilde) Bissainthe" pp 153–159 in Mémoire de femmes by Jasmine Claude-Narcisse, UNICEF Haïti, 1997

Filmography[edit]

  • Les tripes au soleil, 1959.
  • Le théâtre de la jeunesse: La case de l'oncle Tom, Le, 1963.
  • La Noire de..., 1966.
  • L'homme au contrat, television series, 1974.
  • En l'autre bord, 1978.
  • West Indies, 1979.
  • Toto Bissainthe de Sarah Maldoror (5mn - documentary), 1984.
  • Haitian Corner, 1988.
  • An Alé de Irène Lichtenstein (16mm - 70mn - documentary), 1990.
  • L'homme sur les quais, 1993.

External links[edit]